Monday, February 28, 2011

Maryland RRCA Club Challenge: Race Report

First, the result: 14th overall, 56:55 (5:42/mile pace).   In 2010, I ran two half marathons with 60:00 10 mile splits and one hot, humid, and hilly 10 mile race in 63:17.  At the 2009 race, I ran a 66:33.  No matter how I look at it, I rocked this race.

The RRCA club challenge is a 10 mile race hosted by the Howard County Striders.  All the local clubs get their members to sign up and compete against each other in a team format.  Though my club, Baltimore Road Runners Club had no shot at winning, I was still out there to prove something.  Some of the fastest local runners show up to this race, and it is a really good indication of how one stacks up in the area.  I also like proving that it isn't just Howard County, Falls Road, and RASAC that have all the fast runners!

Temperatures at the 8am start were probably in the high 30s, low 40s.  There was a light breeze and overcast skies, perfect 10 miler weather.  My strategy was to go out at 5:40 pace and hold on as long as possible.  The course is notoriously hilly, maze-like, and very disorienting.  Every part of the course looks similar, and with so many turns a runner gets completely turned around quite easily.  Without the very helpful course marshals, I'd probably still be out there right now!

The start line was nice and wide, so I knew I could take a spot up front and not worry about getting stuck behind a pack of people.  I didn't need to pick out any competition for this race, I was completely surrounded by it.  There were two runners in particular I was looking to match up with, and they were both there.  I used to shy away from competitive situations like this but not anymore, I crave opportunities to go up against other runners of similar ability.

The starting gun went off and we all bolted off the line.  Most of the 1st mile was downhill and the adrenaline was really flowing.  The pace felt fast but manageable.  I was a bit distraught by the fact that most of the runners I planned on keying off of were all ahead of me.  We hit the first mile:


I was surrounded by other runners, there was perhaps a pack of about 30 of us, though we were slowly starting to string out.  Even though my targets were all ahead of me, I knew the pace was too fast and made the decision to dial it back just a hair.  I knew the course would only get tougher and that some of those runners would come back.  I probably bled about 10 positions at that point but was content with my position.

Mile 2: 5:39

That was more like it.  There were so many hills on this course that I can't even remember where they all were.  However, after mile 2, things started getting more difficult in a hurry.  Over mile 3 I was able to catch the last 3 runners to pass me while I dialed back.  I consistently gained the most ground going up the hills, so I knew right away the hills would work in my favor.  One runner stuck with me, a guy in purple.

Mile 3: 6:00

I knew that I slowed a bit on mile 3, but not this much.  I think the mile ended up being long, especially considering my next split.  Regardless, guy in purple stayed on my shoulder and would not shake off.  He seemed to be struggling to hold on, and the hills were making it worse.  Despite his struggles, I would not count him out and made sure to stay ahead.  We worked hard on mile 4, there was a pack of probably about 6  runners ahead of us.  They were slowly breaking apart, with one runner really fading.  The leader of that pack was also one of my targets, so I wanted badly to catch back up.

Mile 4: 5:09

Though I would love to have dropped a 5:09 in the middle of a 10 miler, I can guarantee you it didn't happen.  The average of those two miles, about 5:35 is more believable.  The fourth mile was definitely faster at any rate.  Guy in purple was still on my tail, though I stopped worrying about shaking him at that point.  We caught and passed a few runners, some fading bad, others trying to hold on.  Clearly, a lot of people got caught up in the fast early pace and were paying for it.  Though 4 miles, I had what I consider a rather consistent pace.

Mile 5: 5:34

The pace still felt manageable, though some voices and demons of doubt were beginning to creep into my head.  I shut them out as best I could.  Mile 6 was the hardest of the race.  I only know this because that's what everyone was saying at the end.  As far as I remember, it all sucked after mile 2.

Mile 6: 6:02

I don't remember exactly where I caught my first target, but it was somewhere around mile 6.  I continued to use the uphills to my advantage to gain lots of ground.  I lost guy in purple who told me after the race that mile 6 did him in.  I stuck with my new found running partner for only a little while before taking the lead.  I could see another runner far off in the distance, but couldn't make out who he was.  As we approached Mile 7, I continued to gain ground.

Mile 7: 5:32

The pace was really starting to hurt now.  I kept telling myself I only needed to hold on for about a 5k, but it did not make it hurt any less.  I finally realized the runner ahead of me was the same guy who had beaten me in 2 5Ks this year.  I've finished 2nd in every 5K I've run, and two of them were because of this runner!  Tempo pace is my strong suit though, and it was time to show that endurance can beat speed at these moderately long races.

I caught and passed him all in one move.  I really didn't want to linger but rather just go for it all at once.  I was struggling badly, each hill being more painful than the last.  Without much left in the tank, I had no interest in a sprint to the finish.  Despite taking the lead, I could hear footsteps and breathing right behind me for nearly the rest of the way.  I would find out at the end that it was the 2 runners I had picked out to try and beat who were on my tail.

We all got passed by one guy who was flying and probably went out too slow.  The next runner ahead of me was too far ahead to catch so it would come down to the three of us.  At least one course marshal told us we were running 14th, 15th, and 16th.  I was hoping for top 20, but had to fight thoughts of "good enough!"  I was not going to settle for 16th, I wanted to be there in my spot: 14th!

Mile 8: 5:55

Somewhere around mile 8 was the worst part of the course.  We were on a straightaway, the wind was blowing directly in our faces, and it seemed like the race would never end.  The wind gave me a chill, and helped cause that slow mile 8.  A voice in my head was screaming to give in.  I could still hear those other 2 runners hot on my tail, and it would have been so much easier to just back off.  "Why kill yourself, you'll still get 16th and a sub-60 to boot."

I couldn't let that stand though.  I had just run my ass off for 8 miles and had less than 12 minutes to glory.  I wasn't going to throw it all away because I was tired.  I redoubled my efforts and came through mile 9 faster.

Mile 9: 5:49

Not much faster, but seeing a 5:4x did wonders for my confidence.  I could still hear those runners behind me though!  I finally decided enough was enough, I was either going to separate myself from them now or die trying.  I kept thinking back to my last 5K, where I lost the race in the last 0.1 miles.  No way I was loosing 14th place after 9.5 miles of hell.  It was my spot and I was going to keep it!  I threw down everything and anything I had left with about 0.75 miles to go.  Little did I know that I was just maintaining pace, even though it felt like I was running 30 seconds per mile faster.  I truly was racing as hard as I could.

As we approached the finish, the breathing and footsteps slowly faded, and I was greeted by the solitude of only my own breathing and footsteps.  I kept pushing harder and harder, refusing to assume I had my spot locked up.  I realized as I started approaching the finish that I had no clue what my overall time would be.  I was only glancing at my splits the whole way, and never once noticed my overall time, or bothered trying to figure it out.

5:40 pace would be 56:45, but I would have been happy with anything under 57.  As I hit the final straightaway and saw that I would hit sub-57, I got a huge shot of adrenaline and blew through the finish line in 56:55.

Mile 10: 5:53

The two runners I had raced over the last 3 miles came in about 7 and 8 seconds after me.  I wouldn't say that I ever really faded, but rather took what the course gave me.  This was really a tactical race and not a time trial race.  Of course, now my half marathon and 10 miler PRs are on "tactical" rather than "fast" courses, but whatever.  It's clear to me that my strategy, and early gamble to back off paid off well.  I crossed the line spent, and ran the last few miles as strong as I could.

I ended up going for another easy 8 midday with some running friends, I just couldn't resist with the nice weather.  Overall, I felt a lot better than I thought.  I recovered decently quickly and don't feel completely dead today.  My pesky left ankle is bothering me a bit more than it had been before the race, but if I keep moving it around, it feels alright.

Ankle be damned, I had one awesome day, a PR and an epic race.

As so March begins....

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mixed Feelings...Wednesday 2/23 - Saturday 2/26

I hate cut back, step back, recovery, or whatever-the-hell-you-call-them weeks.  I always feel terrible during them.  It must have something to do with running withdrawal.  I just keep telling myself that the real purpose is to pay off some of my recovery debt so I can survive March, my peak month.

AM: 5 miles.  After just one day off, it had felt like forever since I last ran.  Just about everything was hurting at one point or another, hips, knees, ankles, shins.

PM: 8 miles. Despite the snow on Tuesday, the city was quite clear which was nice.  The insides of both my ankles and my lower shins were pretty sore after this one.  I had first felt this at the end of  my long run on Sunday.

AM: 6 miles w/ 3 @ marathon pace.  I ended up doing this one a little too fast.  My legs felt a little fresher than I was expecting: 5:59 pace.  I'm really shooting for about 5-10 seconds per mile slower.  However, I wouldn't be alarmed by 6:00 miles during my goal marathon.  My right ankle was largely ok, but the left was still feeling quite tender.

PM: 7 miles, hilly.  That pesky left ankle still hurt.  I officially retired my trainers after this run.  Overall, the pain was consistently more manageable in my racing flats.  Of course, it never really hurts while running, only when I stop.

11.5 miles with 2x3 miles @ tempo pace.  It was late, 8pm, windy, and I worked for 12 hours with most of it being on my feet.  There was also apparently a down tree branch on Druid Hill Lake that I could not see and tripped over more than a few times.  Despite everything, I still hit the paces I needed.

1.5 mile splits: 8:29, 8:21      8:29, 8:24 roughly 5:38 pace.

A bit less taxing than 6 miles straight, the goal of the workout was to get a feel for the pace I want to run for my upcoming 10 mile race Sunday.  I think I'm locked in, though my left ankle afterward.

12 miles, moderate pace.  I woke up with continued pain in that left ankle, though it still disappears immediately when I start running.  By mile 10 I was feeling real strong and hit the last 2 really hard to see how my ankle would respond.  As I write this after the 12 miler, my ankle feels the best it's been all week!

It looks like I've survived this mini-taper without driving myself completely insane, just a little bit.  Now it's time to get down to business for that 10 miler tomorrow.  It's going to be a challenging course and I will have good competition.  My main goal for this race is to hit the first mile at around 5:40-5:45 pace and just hold on from there.  I'd rather run out of gas and blow up than go out conservatively and run negative splits.  I've done one too many negative split races in this range and always feel like I had too much energy at the end.

To sum up my race strategy, I will quote the Foo Fighters:

"What if I say I will never surrender?" 
If I get through mile 6 alive (this should be possible based on training splits), the last 4 are going to take some digging, but I will not give in!  I will trust in my tempo training to drag my butt across the line in hopeful PR fashion.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Friday: 2/18 - Tuesday 2/22

AM: 5 miles, easy

PM: 11.5 miles with 6 @ tempo pace.  Nice warm, 70 degree weather.  Some moderate to heavy winds conspired against me on the second half this run, but I still did rather well.

1.5 mile tempo splits: 8:32; 8:18; 8:27; 8:33...33:50 overall, 5:38 pace.

Saturday: 8 miles, easy/moderate with some real nasty wind.  There were a few times I thought I would get blown away.

Sunday: 20.20 miles in Loch Raven, which means...hills!  It has been a long time since I've been able to get out on the NCR Trail to log a run with mile splits, so I'm still flying a bit blind on these long runs.

2:16 overall, 6:44 pace.  The first half was in about 7:00 pace, the second half was closer to 6:36.  At times I felt a bit sluggish, and other times, felt like I was cruising.  Hills probably do that...

Total for the week: 88 miles

5 miles, easy

Tuesday: Rest

This was my first rest day after 40 consecutive days of running.  The mental break feels as important as the physical.  We also got hit with some snow last night, so it's good timing on my part.  This Sunday I am running in a 10 mile race and will actually go through a mini-taper this week.  Overall, I'm shooting for 60 miles with the race, about a 25 mile drop from my past few weeks, roughly 25-30%.

My next day off won't be for at least 25 more days, so I have to enjoy it while it lasts!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Warm Weather = Flying around Baltimore

The warmer weather these past 2 days has been so FREAKING awesome.  I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of what's to come this Spring.

AM: 5 miles, easy.  Felt rather refreshed, especially compared to Tuesday morning.
PM: 9 miles with 4xmile, 3:30 rest between each rep.  I've started cutting down more rest between intervals since compared to others of similar talent, I seem to take more.  I can probably safely get down to 3:00 or 2:40 without killing myself.

5:16; 5:17; 5:14; 5:11

I completely rocked this one.  I did the same workout in the days leading up to my fall marathon with 5:00 rest between intervals and less mileage and hit these splits: 5:23; 5:09; 5:12; 5:14.  With more mileage and less rest, I'm hitting the same ballpark and it's only mid-February.  This is a good sign.  That racing edge is sharpening!


Hilly 10 miles, 1:06:18, 6:38/pace.  It was hard to hold back in 60 degree weather.  I felt awesome.  This week almost makes me want to nix my step back week.  However, I know I will greatly benefit from some recovery.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boston Athletic Assocation: New Qualifying Standards for Boston

If you are an obsessive runner like me, then you have probably heard about the changes the BAA is making to the Boston Marathon.  I must say, I am overjoyed with their changes.  I could see three possible routes they could have taken:

1. Leave everything as is or close to it and make Boston essentially a mass participation event with only slightly difficult to obtain qualifying standards.

2. Make a massive shift in the standard to make Boston a truly exclusive event

3. Compromise between 1 and 2, making front runners and mid pack runners happy.

They went with 3.  Faster runners will have the opportunity to register first.  For the open male division, a 2:50 (2:45 for 2013) gets you what is essentially guaranteed entry.  10 minutes slower gets you a pretty darn good chance, and if you just make it, it becomes a crapshoot.

#1 would have been a travesty and could have become the face of a paradigm shift in the running world.  We are already in the midst of the second running boom.  The first happened in the 70s and 80s.  Runners like me were a dime a dozen and average marathon finishing times were almost an hour faster than they are today.

In today's running world, there are tons more people running, but average times have slowed considerably.  Though part of that is due to the booming of the mid to back pack, the front of the pack has thinned considerably.  I direct you to the following article titled "The Decline of the American Marathoners" with data to prove it:  Though slightly dated, it still illustrates a disturbing trend, that faster runners seem to be disappearing, that the "amateur elite" is a dying breed, a relic from the past.

I love that there are more people out there running, and I have read so many inspiring stories about how running has turned peoples' lives around.  I cannot possibly stand here and say mid and back of the pack runners are bad for running.  However, I have wondered what has happened to the "sport" of running and more importantly, what has happened to the meaning of a "race."

To me, running is all about getting faster and running the best that my abilities will allow.  Races are tests of my training, all out efforts where nothing is left in the tank to see what I'm made of.  I'm not sure if all, or even the majority of present day runners approach the sport the same way.  Let me say again, there is NOTHING wrong with this!!  My friends frequently point out that I should probably spend more time on other things (and at least partially, they might be right!).

With that said, the dedicated few really seem to get screwed these days, especially at big races.  Lotteries, ridiculous race day logistics, excessive running traffic, etc really are not conducive to running fast races, particularly marathons.  Some races such as NYC and Chicago cater to runners faster than 2:35 and 2:31.  Other races like Gansett only allow people who qualify, (3:05 for open males).  Still others offer some perks for people in the low 2:30s.  I think that more races should be doing things like this, catering to those who aren't just out there to finish but who are out there to run themselves to the brink.  Either smaller exclusive races, or races that help faster people out are the answer.

Though it's hard to find those fast amateur elites (I don't consider myself one, yet), they are ultimately what the sport is all about, and it's a joke that they would get left behind.  I'm just glad that Boston has at least done its part to keep the sport of running at the forefront.  It remains a relatively exclusive race, and faster runners don't have to gamble with registration problems.  Giving incentive for people to run faster is how it should be, and this system certainly encourages it!

Bravo BAA.  To all race directors out there, don't forget about those dedicated few that train as hard as elites but just don't have the genes to knock off those extra minutes to be considered "elite."  They helped build the sport into what it is today, and if this running boom ever dies down, they will be the ones out there when the dust settles.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mileage Dump: Friday 2/11-Tuesday 2/15

Looks like I fell a few days behind the training log.  It adds up quick when you run everyday...

AM: 5.5 miles, easy
PM: 10 miles, 1:09:22, 6:56 pace...felt good

5K race, see the race report.  My left hip was ever so slightly sore at the end of this race.  It was not very noticeable and disappeared a couple hours later.

Hilly 19 miles, Loch Raven, 2:08:24, 6:45/mile pace.  The first 8.5 miles were done in roughly 6:55 pace, the second 8.5 and remaining 2 averaged 6:20s, though I was flying at the end.  It only took a couple of miles for me to start hitting my stride, and I got stronger as the run progressed, all very good signs for my marathon legs.  About halfway through the run I had some pain in my back, but it disappeared as the run continued.

Total weekly mileage: 82...third consecutive 80+ mile week, fourth consecutive 70+ mile week

Monday: Warm day!!
AM: 5 miles, easy not much in the way of lingering soreness
PM: 8 miles, 54:42, 6:50 pace, felt quite strong

AM: 7 miles...52:19, 7:28 pace.  A bit slower, but still well within "easy pace" guidelines.  In fact, I should probably be doing my easy runs closer to this pace anyway.  My ankles were somewhat unhappy with me and in general, I was feeling somewhat rundown (more mentally than physically), though as the run progressed, I could feel myself getting stronger.

I wimped out of an afternoon speedworkout, so I'm flip flopping my schedule a bit so as not to miss any of my runs.  It's supposed to be much nicer weather the rest of the week, so I might as well take advantage.

I'm still going strong, but I can't wait for next week...60 miles and a day off.  It has now been 32 days since I've had a day off.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's 5K: An Epic Race Wire-to-Wire, and a New PR!

Every so often, I end up running a race that reminds me exactly why all this training is worth it.  With the right competition, conditions, and course, this race became an epic battle.  The race, a local 5K put on by the Annapolis Striders, took place down in Millersville in a local park.  I had never run the race before, and had not done a Striders event since the 2009 Annapolis 10 Miler.

I knew there would be about 500 people, that the race would be well organized, and that the weather would be good (high 30s with minimal wind).  I had become rather used to knowing courses ahead of time now that I frequently re-run races I have done in the past.  However, since I had never even heard of Millersville, MD before this race I knew I'd be running blind; another variable to throw into the mix.

I actually warmed up on the last 0.75 miles of the course so I would have some idea of what was going on.  Right before the start, I took my spot in front and picked out two people that I knew would make it a race.  One dude is a rival who has had my number lately, the other guy, I had never seen before.  As soon as the gun went off, I got a great jump off the line and darted ahead with a group of probably about 10 runners in tow.  It only took about 0.25 miles for the true leaders to differentiate themselves from the rest of the group.

Including me, there were three of us.  The other two runners were the people I picked out at the start-line.  It seems I'm getting really good at sizing people up, or just knowing who they are already!  Of course, none of us had run the race before and had no idea where we were going, but there were enough course marshals and signs to mark the way.  I had decided ahead of time to stay on whoever was leading (unless they were running sub-16) from the get go, rather than fall behind and run from the back as I have been doing.

We hit mile 1 in 5:20.  The whole time leading up to the first mile, the pace felt slower than what I'd usually expect from a 5K.  However, I was relieved to finally actually go out in 5:20 since that is always what I think my first mile should be.  For once, I felt somewhat in control of the pace.  I always hate leading early, so I let the other runners lead.  The guy I didn't know (who is also named Dan) led most of the first mile.

After hitting a sharp turnaround, and passing by the rest of the pack, we turned off onto another path.  The three of us had really separated ourselves from the rest of the runners.  It was clear we were going to be the top-3.  It was just a matter of sorting out the positions.  Over most of the second mile, my rival led.  He also pushed the pace a bit.  I made sure to throw down some surges to remind the other guys that I wasn't going anywhere.  I never went ahead, I either stayed right behind the other guys or even with them.  I also tried to avoid staying in third.  Second was really my comfort zone.

We hit mile 2 in about 5:29.  There were some rolling hills over the second mile, and yet we were still essentially right on pace.  I felt better than I ever had after the second mile of a 5K.  The pace was still extremely painful to hold, but once again, I felt in control.  I had no thoughts of fading.  Of course, being neck and neck with two other runners, there was no way I was backing down anyway!

I noticed my rival take a couple of peaks at his watch after we passed mile 2.  When I start looking at my watch between mile markers, it usually means I'm tired.  Assuming the same thing from him, I decided it was time to take the lead and try and win the race.  I knew I probably didn't have much of a chance winning an all out sprint at the end with my marathon legs, so the race had to be decided before mile 3.

I started pushing the pace more, though in reality, I was really just holding onto my current pace.  The effort required to maintain was skyrocketing and I knew I wasn't going to last much longer.  I just kept telling myself "less than 5 minutes of running left."  Of course, those 5 minutes at the end of a 5K are pure agony.

We eventually hit the section I had warmed up on, so I knew we were close.  I sensed that one of the runners had faded back and that only one other remained.  I had no idea if he was shoulder-to-shoulder or a step behind me.  I could hear heavy breathing and footsteps, so I knew he was close.  As we approached the 3 mile marker I pushed harder and harder trying to shake this last guy.  I had no idea if he was my rival or the other Dan, but it really didn't matter!

Once we were within 30 seconds of the 3 mile marker, I realized I wasn't going to be able to shake him off.  My instinct started telling me he was going to try and make a move real soon, probably right at the 3 mile mark.  That's probably what I would have done in the same situation!  A voice in my head was screaming, "watch for the pass!"  I knew I would have to respond immediately by kicking it up a gear.  0.1 miles goes by real quick.  To make matters worse, I knew there was a sharp 90 degree turn with about 0.05 miles to go, so any momentum I'd have from picking it up would have to be regained after that turn.  With my crappy acceleration, that was going to be a problem.

Almost right on queue, I heard him go by me right after we hit the 3 mile mark in about 5:27.  A few friends watching said that we were actually side by side coming up on the 3 mile marker.  During the race, I had thought he went around me, and was shocked at how someone could have the energy to do that.  However, running alongside made a lot more sense.  Regardless, I had just a momentarily delayed response, just the slightest of a pause before I threw it into the highest gear I had.

As we turned the onto the final straight, I lost 1 second worth of ground.  After cursing out loud and trying even harder to go faster, my leg speed topped out and at best, I was only able to keep myself from falling further behind.  I crossed the line 2nd, 1 second behind the winner, but with a 2 second PR and a very evenly paced effort to boot.

Although this seems like a lot of thought going on, in reality, all of this happened over about 29 seconds and my thought process during the race was rather quick (and probably more illogical!).  That's how long it took me to cover the last 0.1 miles.  Most of this is from my analysis of how I remember the end of the race.

There was absolutely no way I could be disappointed with the outcome.  Someone has to lose the race, and it turned out to be me.  I got outkicked real badly at the end.  Since I almost never do 400 meter repeats during marathon training, I don't really give myself a chance to develop my own kick!  I know that the 3 of us left it all out there and ran one hell of a race.  That is all I can ask of myself.

I'll take my 16:45 and 1 second loss.  Now, next time I race that same dude in a 5K, I'll be waiting for just that move.  Next time, I'll have to bury him (and any other runners) before the 3 mile mark.  I need to break people before they have a chance to blow by me!  I have no problem mentioning this on the internet either.  Even if you know it's coming, the only way to counter a late gamble on the pace is to match it.  You either run faster or you don't whether or not you know it's coming!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

80+ MPW Week Sustainable??? Thursday: 11.5 miles with 6 @ tempo

I'm really starting to feel sharp now.  I can feel my racing edge returning, the same edge that got me my half marathon, 10K, 15K and marathon PRs back in September and November.  It only takes a couple shorts weeks to lose race readiness, and a long time to get it back!

When I hit my first 80+ mile week 2.5 weeks ago, I was holding on for dear life.  The next 80+ week was pure torture for about half my runs.  Now this week has become quite manageable.  That was my plan all along, to hit a high level and stay there until it became "easy."

Come March, I'll push over 90 and see what happens.  But, first things first, I've got another 5K coming up this Saturday.  I won't be doing a long run the day before it, and I feel 10 times better this week than I did last week.  My goal this time: don't fade over the last mile!!

Splits for today's run (1.5 miles each), continuous tempo run (no breaks):

8:24; 8:19: 8:14; 8:27...33:24 overall....~5:35/mile pace.  Tempo runs are easier on flat courses!

I don't want to see a mile split in my 5K that is tempo pace.  My 5K legs might suck, but still...I can run 3 consecutive miles faster than 5:30 pace, I know it!!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday: 5 miles

Closing in on a month straight without a day off.  Felt a bit tired, more because I was running at 4:45AM in 20 degree temperature.

I am up to 399 miles (excluding races) of training for Boston 2011.  In 18 weeks of training for my first marathon in 2008, I accumulated a total of 388 miles in preparation excluding races.

Two words...


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Legs Catching Up...Tuesday: 6 miles (Ladder workout) + 7 miles


6 miles total with a ladder workout...400m, 800m, 1200m, 1200m, 800m, 400m.  4800 meters of speed work is a bit shorter than the 6400 meters I did last week.  However, with another 5K coming up, I think it was good to save something for that race.  This is the first time I think I've ever done speedwork at 5:30 in the morning.  It felt great to be back out on a track (Dunbar High School), and even better to do this in my T6's!

I certainly understand what barefoot runners are talking about when they say it's "pleasurable" to feel the ground under their feet.  However, I counter that by saying that running 10-12 miles per hour in T6's feels as close to flying without machine assistance as I'll ever get!

2 minutes rest between each rep except the first and last...just one minute.  Splits:

400= 75
800= 2:33

I nailed this one, even if the splits were ever so slightly faster than 5K pace.  I made sure to push hard late to try and correct my fade from Sunday.  No soreness, no excessive tiredness.  It hurt because it's speed, but man, I felt good today.


7 miles, 46:12 6:36/mile pace.  A bit too fast for an easy run, but I feel like my legs have all of a sudden caught back up to my mileage.  This was even with some absolutely terrible wind around the Inner Harbor.  I'll make sure to slow down a bit over the next couple of days, but this is a really good sign.

Third consecutive week of 80+ miles, and I'm feeling stronger than ever!

Run More!!!!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

2 More Weeks to Survive...Monday: 9 + 5 miles

AM: 9 miles total, easy/moderate pace.  I felt decent considering I am now entering my 4th week of 70+ miles and have only taken 2 days off the entire year.  I've stopped counting how many days in a row I've run because I'd rather not think about it!

PM: 5 miles...33:19, 6:40/mile pace

My left IT band was a bit tight in the morning but loosened up by the afternoon.  My quads and hamstrings however were not happy for most of this run.  By the end they were ok, but then my ankles were upset.  Overall, the pace still felt as I would expect it, and it was 45 degrees, (aka shorts weather) so no complaining here!

I will be taking a mini taper in the last week of February to gear up for the ever important 10 Mile Club Challenge at the end of the month.  60 miles (including the race), a day off, and probably only 2 doubles will be on the schedule.  No specific details yet, but just looking forward to that week will be enough motivation to gut out these next 13 days of running!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

2011 Superbowl 5K: Race Report: A Mixed Bag of Outcomes

This was a race in which I had mixed emotions, but ultimately, decided I was satisfied with the outcome, but hungry for more.

The result: 16:52, 2nd place overall.

Looking at just that line, it is certainly very, very hard to be unhappy!  There were a lot of positives that came out of this race, and just a couple of negatives.  First though, I have to get the story of the race itself down on paper before I forget!  5Ks have just become these short lived blurs of agony.

This race was actually canceled last year as Baltimore was in the midst of one of the worst winters in history.  This year though, we were greeted with 40 degree temperatures and a light wind on the CCBC Dundalk Campus.  Without thinking, I decided to race in shorts and a t-shirt.  I only broke down once with wearing multiple layers and have no intention of making it a habit!

I took my spot on the start line and immediately recognized the runner who beat me in my last 5K.  Also, during my warm up, I saw that the Navy Marathon Team had shown up.  They had been at this race two years ago when I was "only" an 18:30 5K guy.  More recently, I had run with a few of them in a 20 mile race back in September.  The competitor inside me was on fire.  I wanted so badly to beat that entire team and give that other runner a run for his money.

I was somewhat familiar with the course, knowing there would be rolling hills.  I also knew the wind would be blowing against us the very start and for portions of the second half of the race.  As soon as the gun went off (they actually used a shotgun), 15 people broke hard off the line.  I actually expected this to happen and gladly tucked into the pack so they could take the brunt of the wind.

Just as with every 5K, as we continued on, everyone around me started dropping like flies.  Most of the first mile was downhill, and I hit it in 5:15 in 5th or 6th place.  Although I had wanted to stay on the shoulder of the eventual winner, I got a bit caught up in the big initial pack.  By the 1.25 mile mark, everyone had dropped off and it was just the two of us, with about a 5 second gap between us.

We made the turnaround at 1.5 miles and started heading back.  From the time everyone dropped off through about mile 2.5, the distance between the leader and myself never changed.  We were both running nearly the same pace, but I was behind him and had no ability to close the gap.  I just don't have the speed to throw down a surge and close a gap like that, my engine is already redlining at 8000 rpms in a race like this!

I hit mile 2 also in 5:15.  This was the first time ever that my first two miles were dead on consistent.  I had actually somehow managed to hold on for 2/3 of the race.  Despite such a brilliant second mile, I was still stuck behind the leader and still couldn't gain any ground.

As we approached the finish, a rather decent uphill stood in the way.  The wind was also blowing pretty hard against us at this point.  It was on that hill that I fell apart and was broken.  On that hill I lost ground on the leader and could just feel myself slow down.  My third mile suffered as a result...


Interestingly, I "faded" nearly the same amount of time that I did in my last 5K, except it all happened in mile 3 instead of being evenly split over mile 2 and 3.  I ended up running the last 0.1 miles back at 5:19 pace (32 seconds) once I recovered from the hill.  I crossed the finish, and within a very short period of time, recovered.  This is what happens when you train for marathons....

I was very disappointed by how much I faded at the end.  I had a big PR in the bag until the last half mile of that race.  I was also so, so close to the leader (and now someone who has beaten me twice!) and ran a good portion of that race at nearly the same pace, but was stuck too far back.  I then quickly realized that I couldn't be disappointed with the final result for the following reasons...

1. I broke 17 minutes for the second time a row.  Last year I did it once and never came close again.
2. I only ran 5 seconds slower than my current 5K PR.  In the past 2 years, I always ran one PR performance and never got close to it again.
3. I ran even splits for the first 2 miles.  Not only were they even, they were fast.  I have never held 5:15 for 2 miles ever, not even when I used to run 2 mile races.
4. I beat the entire Navy Marathon Team
5. I did all of this after having already run 76 miles for the week

So overall, I'm happy.  Next time, I'm going to make sure to stay on whoever I decide is for real and won't be fading.  Unless they plan on running a sub 16:20, I should be able to hang with them.  If I'm even with someone, we can go back and forth and push on.  If I'm 5 strides back, I have no way to close the gap with marathon legs.  I can't take myself out of the race before it even starts.  There is no time to think or plan in a 5K, you just have to go, redline that engine, and pray it doesn't explode.  I think this is why I like longer distance races more!

One final note, I decided to run this race in my Brooks T6 racers to try them out.  I was very pleased with them.  I felt like I was just gliding over the road the entire time, even at the end when I was falling apart.  The shoes are so light and my stride just felt so smooth, natural, and unimpeded, even more so than when I'm running in my Saucony Fastwitches.  I didn't feel any better or worse at the end of the race.  My back, knees, hips, and shins felt exactly like they usually do.  My feet were hurting over the last half mile of the race, but I get that from time to time in any shoe.  I don't know if I'm ready to try them in my 10 miler at the end of the month.  I'll take them on a few more tempo runs first to see how they feel.  Since they are neutral shoes and I am a travesty of bio-mechanics (pigeon toed, flat footed, overpronator, probable leg length discrepancy, knees that sometimes knock together), I do have to be careful.

Between the T6 and the ST5, I can make the Brooks brand work for me in races and fast training days.  Although the ST5 seems to be a bit too much shoe for a true racing flat, I could certainly still make it work for distances too long for the T6.  I already have about 75% of my apparel as Brooks stuff and I love all of it.  It may be time to shoot off a "running resume" to Brooks to see if I can get into their ID program.  Hopefully between my decent times and rather significant involvement in the running community, they'll let me in!  I really need to start racing in singlets so those guys at the front know I mean business.  The way it stands now, they find out after the gun goes off...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Surviving a mile at a time...Friday: 5.5 + 10 miles Saturday: 18 miles


AM; 5.5 miles, easy pace.  Felt decent.

PM: 10 miles, 1:09:09 overall, 6:55/mile pace.  I gave myself a rather hilly course to run.  I could certainly feel it in my legs, but I was still able to maintain my usual too fast for an easy run pace without any extra perceived  effort.

Saturday: 35-37 degree temperatures with a light but steady rain.  Ran 18 miles untimed through Baltimore at a couple of different paces ranging from easy to moderate as I did different portions with different people.  I was feeling it pretty badly early on but after about 10 miles, the pain just melted away and I finished quite strong.

Of course afterward both my knees were sore thanks to the cold rain.  My left knee is still a bit tight and my left groin/hip area is a bit sore.  Cold rain just does a number on me, so I think I'm fine.  Walking around feels better than sitting around.

Should be all ready for that 5K tomorrow!  It's supposed to be 40 degrees at the start, so I can't wait.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Outrunning Demons...Thursday: 9 miles (8x800meter)

Tuesday was tough, Wednesday felt a little better, and today I rocked my workout.  I've bounced back real strong from the pits of despair.  I ended up doing this run in Patterson park on a flat 0.5 mile paved section.  Though not as good as doing it on a track, I still got what I needed from the workout.

Splits: 2:39; 2:30; 2:29; 2:33; 2:35; 2:34; 2:34; 2:37

A bit more erratic that what I usually put up, but this wasn't on a track.  That 2:29 certainly came out of no where.  I was dreading my 5K race coming up this weekend, but now I'm looking forward to it.  Time to rock out another 5K, and hopefully go sub-17 for the second time in a row!

RUN MORE...and outrun self doubt!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bumps in the road...Monday: 5 + 7 miles Tuesday: 6 (MP) + 11 miles (Tempo) Wednesday: 5 miles


AM: 5 miles, easy/moderate
PM: 7 miles, easy/moderate, 48:49 overall, 6:58/pace

I was certainly feeling my previous high mileage week.  I ended up finishing decently strong, still fighting through some snow which slowed me down.

Tuesday: the running day from hell

AM: 6 miles with 3 @ marathon pace.  I did this run on a 1.5 mile loop near Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I actually ran it with another runner who was looking for someone to train with on workout days.  We stuck to the road to avoid all the black ice on the sidewalks and for the most part, stayed out of the way of all the traffic.  This run was a bit tough despite being "only" marathon pace.

Splits: 9:25, 9:11 for 18:36 overall.  Average 6:12/mile, first loop was at 6:17, second loop at 6:07.

I actually felt better on the second lap and probably could have banged out at least another.

PM: 11 miles total with 6 @ tempo pace.  This was a continuous 6 as opposed to the 2x3 mile pattern I had been doing.  This was also done in Patterson Park instead of Druid Hill Park which meant a pretty big hill in the middle of my 2 mile loop which I had to run up 3 times.  Thankfully, it was not raining, and the inside of the park was actually clear.

I felt quite terrible for most of this run though it was not the usual dull ache that I experience in high mileage.  Instead it was a tired feeling I could not shake.  My pace was slower, though more in line with what I should be doing tempo runs at...

2 mile splits: 12:06 (6:03 pace); 11:49 (5:55 pace); 11:48 (5:55 pace).

Despite feeling initially, I started bouncing back towards the middle of the run.  I kept pushing and eventually, that tired feeling disappeared.


5 miles easy on a cold and rainy morning.  I was expecting more suffering but instead ended up with a pretty decent run.  My legs felt relatively fresh at the end.  They are a bit sore now, but I think I'll be able to handle my next workout tomorrow.  I really feel like my struggles are more mental than physical.  The toll of running 7 days a week is tough to get used to.  However, this run still felt like a break for me like off days once did.  I think I'm ready to bounce back strong.

Day at a time!!!